“All for Your Good” (Romans 8:28-30)
The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost (July 26, 2020)
“Don’t worry, darling,” a mother said to console her teary-eyed 4-year old, “Everything will be alright.” How often haven’t we heard these words or even said them ourselves so as to bring comfort and hope to someone. Another commonly utilized expression of comfort is, “Don’t worry. Things have a way of working out for the best.”
But are such statements even true in every circumstance and for every one? What about that person who has just been told by his oncologist that there is nothing more that any medicine or treatment can do to rid him of his cancer and that he should simply go home and prepare to die? Try telling him that everything will be alright! Or those families of the victims of terrorism or that person whose spouse has just decimated their marriage through an act of infidelity, how do you suppose they would react if you told them, “Don’t worry. Things have a way of working out for the best.” Do you think they would believe you? Would you be telling them the truth?
The truth is this… our world is a place that we should never expect to see things work out for the best or for good. In the beginning, it is true that God made the pronouncement that everything was good; in fact, He said it was “very good!” But mankind has by his sin and rebellion made a shambles out of that good. As a result the world is not getting better, it is degenerating further into the abyss of wickedness. God’s perfect order is being replaced with the evil of chaos. The perfect has deteriorated into the imperfect... peace into disorder... well being into misery. The order of the day is now evil not good. How, then, do we get off telling people things will work out for good?
Someone might be quick to reply, “The Bible says ‘all things work together for good.’” Does the Bible really say that? It is true that many people claim that it says that. But there is a big difference between what is perceived and promulgated in the name of comfort and what God actually says. The actual words God states through His servant the apostle Paul is this: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”
It is paramount that we understand that these words of our text are not intended to apply willy-nilly to every sinner in the world. They are directed only to “those who love God; that is, believers in Jesus Christ. In the context, Paul is speaking to those who are God’s children, those who have been sanctified by the Spirit of God with faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior... those who know and appreciate the gracious love of God for them in Jesus Christ so that they have been brought to be lovers of God themselves.
This means that the promise that things will be worked for the good is not given to those who are enemies of God; that is, those who despise Him and His Word… those who love evil … those who don’t believe in the true God. Nor would you and I actually want them to apply to them. Would we want everything to work for the good for the Osamma Bin Laden’s of this world? Would that then be “good” for the rest of us? No the promise is made for the exclusive comfort and hope of God’s Children... believers in Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, in order to fully grasp this promise, we need to get a firm grip on just who or what is working all things together to accomplish good, as well as, what this text means by the adjective good. Do “things” just work themselves out for good as if they had some innate power to do so or that good is itself some kind of universal force that is active to impose its way in the world? Of course not! That’s Star Wars mumble jumble. It is not the way of things in the real world.
The reality is that some personal force must work good or, for that matter, some personal force must also work the evil. As we see in our text, the force behind true good is God. “He works all things for the good...”Sinful people and wicked angels, also called demons, are the forces behind evil.
So what is good? As Scripture teaches us, God is Good. God is the source of all that good and right. Yes, the world calls certain things good, but it has no idea what is the good that comes from God. The world considers things good that conform to its will.
For example, you and I might refer to a vacation as being good but what we mean by that is that on that vacation things went our way and we got to do what we wanted... our expectations were met. Likewise, food that we call good is food that conforms to our own personal tastes. Rarely are we calling the food good simply because its of great nutritional benefit to us.
But what Holy Scripture refers to as good is that which conforms to God’s will for us, which may or may not be in accord with our will or even our worldly definition of good.
So, what is God’s will for our good? To use the language of our text, God’s will is that you and I be conformed to the image of His Son and in so doing become sons and daughters of God ourselves. That means that the ultimate good God desires for you and me is our eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. Whether or not we have pleasant experiences and ease of life in this world is at best secondary and is completely independent of our possession of God’s good for us. The real good is that we are saved from sin, death, the power of the devil and hell...that we sinners are justified in His sight through the forgiveness of our sins... that we share in His eternal glory. This is God’s good for us!
Our great comfort is that God has not left anything to chance to bring us this good! On account of His love for us, God ordained in His own council and will, even before He created the earth, that He would work all things toward this good end for us. He ordained even before mankind ruined His creation that He would give to the world a Savior, His only begotten Son, who would willingly lay down His own life in payment for the sins of the whole world. To use the analogy of our Gospel Lesson, God pre-ordained that He would purchase the field of the whole world just so that He could possess the treasure; that is, all the believers in Jesus Christ, buried within it.
You see, it was also always God’s pre-ordained purpose that His Incarnate Son would give Him other children... that Jesus would be the firstborn among many brothers.
The incarnation of the Son of God was pre-ordained as the means God was going to have other children. The Son of God took on our likeness in all humility so that we might be “conformed” to His very image as Holy God. Now we are truly talking about working all things for our good! God has moved heaven and earth to bring us into His holy family.
Even your own personal ability to enjoy the eternal good of being a child of God has not been left to chance. God has worked all things for this good for you. Paul assures you that as a believer in Jesus Christ, your status... your faith... are a direct result of God’s pre-ordained election of you. It wasn’t left to you to decide for Jesus. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, “He chose us in (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will--to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Because God elected you, or chose you, He saw that you were exposed to His Word and brought to faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Because He elected you, He also justified you... and glorifies you. God has worked this great good for you personally.
So, what does all this mean when it comes to everything else in your life? It means everything for you! Again, God’s promise is to not leave anything to chance. Even those things you might not consider to be so good, like pain, suffering, want, loss, they are still covered by God’s promise. The One who has moved heaven and earth to redeem you for Himself, is not about to let, as Paul states later in this same chapter, anything separate you from the love of Christ. This includes such things as trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, demons, opposing powers, present happenings, future happenings, even death.
When God says He will work all things for the good of those who love Him, that is exactly what He means; all things, even those crosses you are called upon to bear. You might not see how He is working such things toward that end, but you have His promise that He is.
Paul even gives us a hint at how God accomplishes this. In Chapter 5 of Romans we read: “...we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” In one way or another, God will orchestrate everything, even your own crosses, toward the glorious good end He has laid up for you.
Accordingly, you do not have to live with the false and dead hope that by some mysterious set of circumstances everything will just conveniently work out good; that is, the way your flesh might want it.
But, what is much better, you can live in the living and certain hope you have received in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ: your Gracious God has worked, is working, and will work all things, even bad things, toward the good end He has purposed and laid up for you in your brother Jesus Christ! After all, as you are also assured in both today’s Old Testament reading and Gospel lesson, you are God’s treasured possession. He will not let anything keep you, who believe in Him, from His great good for you! That’s true comfort! Amen.